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Is it Safe to Sedate My Pet Before Traveling?

posted by Victoria
Is it Safe to Sedate My Pet Before Traveling?

Sedation: Is it safe for my pet?

You’re traveling with your pet on a new journey. Be it by plane, boat, or hitting the road, the journey can be stressful for many pets. Pet parents might feel inclined to sedate pets to prevent travel-induced anxiety. While anti-anxiety medications might be useful for your pet in some situations, in this blog post we will explore why sedation isn’t the best choice for a traveling pet.

The Facts

The American Veterinary Association discourages the use of sedatives during pet travel. Pets under the influence of sedatives lack coordination and the ability to balance properly. In case of turbulence or disturbances during take-off and landing, it’s important that your pet remains coordinated enough to balance themselves. Experts warn sedation could lead to injury during transit and the best way to prevent injury is to avoid these medications.

Furthermore, many medications used to relieve anxiety in pets alter their vital functions, such as lung and heart functions. Sedatives lower your pet’s heart rate and breaths per minute- increasing the risk for possible complications. High altitudes during flights may already increase the cardiovascular risks in some dogs, most especially brachycephalic breeds, including but not limited to Pugs, Boxers, Shih Tzu’s, and exotic short-haired cats.

It is important to note that even if a pet has never had an adverse reaction to sedatives before, the environmental conditions during travel could affect the way your pet reacts to medications. Your pet could react to a medication appropriately at sea level but at an altitude of 8,000 feet high, your pet could experience negative reactions even to known medications. It is understood that at high altitudes your pet’s blood pressure lowers naturally. The combination of altitude and medication could lead to tragic and unintended cardiac and blood pressure consequences in pets while transiting.

Most importantly, sedating your pet also comes with the risk they could be refused at the airport. Due to the known dangers of transporting a sedated animal, airlines will turn away pets they deem under the influence of sedatives. This could mean your pet’s travels are delayed and you could face additional expenses incurred as a result!

It’s safer for your pet to be able to breathe, move freely, and stay aware of their environment while traveling so they can reunite with their families in their new destination. Arriving at their new home, safe, healthy, and ready to join their family is WorldCare Pet Transport’s number one goal!

Alternatives to Sedation

While air travel might appear stressful for an animal, the actual flight itself is quiet and soothing. If your pet travels as manifest cargo, your pet will be taken care of by airport personnel trained to handle animals. During the flight, your pet will be in a dimly lit, temperature-controlled area. Away from the sounds and smells in the passenger cabin, most pets fall asleep after take-off. It’s like first class for pets!

As an alternative to sedation, consider training your pet to feel at ease in their carrier prior to travel. When your pet views their carrier as a positive, safe space, their anxiety will be greatly reduced during the day of their big trip. In the weeks prior to your trip, train your pet to associate their carrier with positive vibes with treats and praise. On the day of their big trip, your pet will be at ease in their carrier. For more tips, you can visit our earlier post on how to familiarize your pet with their carrier, How to Prepare my Pet for Travel!

Finally, if you still feel your pet needs a little bit of extra help with their big trip, we recommend these homeopathic options instead:

  • Tryptophan, the enzyme famously found in turkey meat, can help your pet feel relaxed, calm and ready for a nap on the day of their big trip. Studies have shown that Tryptophan can help reduce anxiety in dogs. Treats with tryptophan are commonly available at pet stores and boutiques.
  • Zylkene is a supplement designed to help alleviate anxiety in pets due to situational stressors. Recommended uses for Zylkene are pets who are traveling, newly adopted pets arriving home, while grooming, during periods of loud noise and when greeting new people. The main ingredient is bovine-sourced hydrolyzed milk protein which is known for it’s calming effects. Zylkene is available without prescription and is suitable for both dogs and cats. Zylkene is available on their website, here!
  • Feliway is designed for especially for cats using natural pheromones to induce a calming effect on our feline friends. As Feliway pheromones are specifically designed for cats, humans and dogs will not be affected by the product’s pheromones. After their journey, Feliway can also be used when your kitty arrives in their new home to help them adjust to their new environment. You can visit Feliway’s product site, here!

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